On a dusty corner of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge at 7851 2nd Street SW, members of the Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS) came together to share telescopes and knowledge with more than 100 members of the community. Many of the people who attended the Star Party heard about it online. 

Arriving at the event, people were greeted by a dozen or so telescopes set up and pointed at anything interesting in the sky. Each telescope was manned by a helpful and informative TAAS member.. 

This gathering was a part of the TAAS Summer Star Parties — events held every summer that bring members of TAAS together to enjoy the night with anyone else who wants to come. Star parties typically take place further outside of Albuquerque, like at Oak Flats in the Manzano Mountains or the TAAS Observatory in Belen, so this is the first time one has been held at the Valle de Oro.

Lynne Olson, a TAAS member, said other events planned for the Valle de Oro in the spring had to be canceled. 

“One time, it was cloudy, and the second time, it was so windy that nobody could set up a telescope,” Olson said.

Being at the Valle de Oro, closer to Albuquerque’s light pollution than any of the other event locations, can make viewing the stars more difficult. However, according to Olson, light pollution does not take away from anyone’s enjoyment of what they see. 

According to the TAAS website, the Star Party is in support of the Valle de Oro’s attempt to be certified as an Urban Dark Sky Place. According to the International Dark Sky Place Association, an Urban Dark Sky certifies that an area near significant light pollution is “able to promote an authentic nighttime experience.”

Being certified as an Urban Dark Sky Place would be an important step for the Valle de Oro. According to its website, its status as an urban wildlife refuge is important in helping to reconnect people, especially young people, to the natural world. Events aimed at families, such as the Star Party, go a long way towards establishing that reconnection. 

“It is important to teach kids. They still have their eyesight and can see a lot with the naked eye,” TAAS member Phil Fleming said. 

Fleming himself is a newcomer to the world of amateur astronomy but has quickly gotten involved as he now teaches a naked-eye sky viewing class ‘Fabulous 50’, for TAAS. 

TAAS holds many events throughout the year, including on the University of New Mexico’s campus. Every Friday evening during the school semester at the UNM Observatory, TAAS members as well as any interested students can come and use the large domed observatory to see the sky. 

Events through TAAS provide valuable experiences for anyone interested in astronomy. The members have a passion for and knowledge of astronomy. They are excited to talk to anyone interested. 

For anyone who does not know the constellations, anyone who has not seen Jupiter’s moons, or anyone who wants to learn and see the night’s sky, TAAS offers many events. 

More information on TAAS can be found at https://www.taas.org/.

Colin Peña is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @penyacolin.